In case you haven’t visited our earlier blog; http://www.thereadrovers.wordpress.com we have been creating a blog of our travels since our retirement. Running out of space on two blogs never even occurred to us when we started the first blog but yes, we have run out of space again.
Yes, it is that time again and whilst we all set off on our separate journeys to meet up at Clearwell again, our journey takes a diversion to a pre 70th birthday bash for our friend John. Whilst it was supposed to be a surprise party, John did recognise our car in the car park despite me having tried to hide it under a tree away from the entrance to the hotel.
Food and company were good and John suitably surprised. Jill, John & Deirdre’s daughter and her family were off to Cambodia later that day for Christmas although granddaughter, Lizzie was somewhat apprehensive about the long flight. Despite this, she entered into the party spirit and was duly trodden upon!
Down to Clearwell to get ready for everyone via Fleet for a catch up with Viv.
Christmas would not be the same without Christmas trees with presents piled high and our one in Clearwell was no exception.
However, some Christmas trees were not so lucky as clearly a certain DIY store in the UK had massively over catered this year (or should it be over cut this year) and were selling them off at a ridiculously low price about 5 days before the big day.
Trees apart, presents, especially for the younger generation are the order of the day and thanks to good old Santa and friends, Harry for one thoroughly enjoyed opening all the presents that managed to find their way into his pile.
Fresh from Mel’s Panto she had some liquid left over that is used to make snow from a snow machine.
Well, we just had to borrow the machine and set if off at an appropriate time for Harry to enjoy.
Mind you, it did make a mess on the windows and no doubt any passing motorists or walkers were confused as it was quite a mild Christmas Day for a change.
We had no time to rest as we had to return earlier than normal to the Isle of Man for New Year’s Eve in front of the TV in advance of another long adventure starting with us leaving the Isle of Man on 1 January.
What is this adventure?
Well you will just have to turn to our new blog as this one is getting remarkably full – probably something to do with the fact that since we started our 2 blogs, we have travelled to close on 50 countries!
It’s wet leaving the Isle of Man today and we are in a full plane with at least two passengers overbooked. It has certainly turned more wintry and is cold and windy on our walk from Green Park tube to the Intercontinental Hotel in Park Lane for our two free nights using accumulated loyalty points from previous stays.
Double upgrade and we are at the front of the hotel overlooking St James’ Park, The Guardsman’s memorial and the edge of Hyde Park Corner roundabout.
Bus to Trafalgar Square down Piccadilly and we have dinner at Garfunkles, exceptionally crowded with a large party of students from France. We understand there were 120 of them but only 4 adults. Very well behaved, I would say.
Wednesday 9 November
We are cheapskates and object to a £25 per person breakfast, so I walk back towards Green Park station for a couple of Croissants & a drink for under £5. Get to Ticket booth at Leicester Square and manage to get two tickets for this afternoon’s Kinky Boots and two for tonight’s Beautiful: the Carol King story for £120 all in – bargain.
Wait for bus to Oxford Circus and along comes a police motor cyclist, blue lights flashing but whistles rather than sirens. A minute later, a black limo speeds into sight occupied by HM The Queen & Prince Phillip. Not enough time to get phone out to take picture as she is soon gone on her way to a medical centre and a picture unveiling.
Lunch in Debenhams after a bit of retail therapy and the person on the table next to me looks so much like Dame Maggie Smith, the actress. She keeps her hat on and has her back to most of the rest of the shop but I don’t think she would appreciate being asked!
Bus to the Strand for Kinky Boots but arrive a bit early so wander to Covent Garden to hear the music and see the Christmas decorations.
Didn’t know the story of Kinky Boots beforehand so thoroughly enjoyed the show, the songs are good.
The story predicable in many respects but with an interesting twist and well acted, performed. A good afternoon’s entertainment.
Evening meal in Zizzi’s opposite before we stroll down to the Aldwych Theatre for the Carol King play.
Whilst we know of Carol King, the extent of her songs and those of her friends are something I didn’t really appreciate. Another great performance. Bus back from Aldwych all the way to the hotel.
Thursday 10 November
A slightly better day and another visit to Pret a’Manger for breakfast followed by a leisurely morning, check out at hotel with nothing to pay and a bus journey to Victoria and train to Gatwick.
Not so many trains to Gatwick from Victoria (other than the expensive Gatwick Express) than there were on my previous journey from Victoria but now you can use your Oyster card to get to Gatwick which makes travel even less troublesome.
Gatwick, airside is as usual, crowded but the lift to the restaurants isn’t working which is frustrating. However, getting on the Internet was a bit easier this time. Flight to Jersey full and we arrive early, get picked up and get to see Harry for a couple of hours before his bed time.
Friday 11 November
Walk Harry to School and back for breakfast, out to St Ouen’s for a walk on the beach at low tide.
Don’t recall seeing the wooden posts before when we lived here but probably did. Left over from WWII, as anti-tank/landing craft defences.
A navy vessel is steaming away from the island and we understand later from Sarah that it was due to dock in St Helier the previous day but the tug involved broke down and couldn’t tow it in.
The replacement tug, towed the stricken tug, the navy vessel tried to get in itself but failed because of the wind. Some disappointed people who were due to have a meal on board!
Lunch at St Peter’s garden centre whose Christmas decorations display was looking good. Back to pick up Harry from school and a walk back home. Harry was very tired and didn’t want to go out again but we did manage to persuade him to come with us to see the and Christmas decorations; Wow he exclaimed on seeing it.
England 3 Scotland 0 was not something Ali was impressed with although he is not particularly a football fan.
Saturday 12 November
A very early start with the prospect of a rough and rainy crossing to St Malo. This must be the first time ever I have been driven onto a ferry; having only ever driven the car on myself or been a foot passenger.
Boat probably about a third full, crossing not as bad as we had thought it would be though. Drive down the D137 towards the North West of Rennes heading for a supermarket (Cora) and IKEA for some purchases and lunch. Lovely golden colours by the road but it is raining or drizzling so not a pleasant journey for Ali, who is driving.
Find our way to the Decathlon village the north eastern side of Rennes.
A massive shop with children allowed to roller scate, cycle, play badminton, table tennis and a multitude of other activities. All of course designed to entice children to learn a new sport and of course buy sports equipment!
The shop even has a horse section which, after sending photos, amused Flic.
Off back up the road to our hotel for the night, the Mercure at Port Dinan just by the River Rance. The hotel is being refurbished but apart from the reception being in the lounge and some wear & tear on some of the public space carpets, was a good choice, comfortable, quiet and warm. Free coffee on arrival with biscuits was very welcome.
Dinner tonight in the restaurant, not overly crowded but with a lovely real fire. A walk out afterwards for some photos of the tastefully decorated buildings of the old port.
Sunday 13 November
A much better day weather wise and after a good breakfast, head off for a river walk before driving to a local supermarket for some extras and heading for the old town of Dinan.
Every restaurant crowded until we reach the bottom of the hill back at the port opposite the hotel where we find a restaurant that has room for lunch. Crepes for some of us and ham /chips for Harry.
Sarah & Ali go back up to get the van whilst Sally and I entertain Harry by the riverside. Short drive back to St Malo and the ferry crossing back to Jersey with French food for dinner. A successful weekend.
Monday 14 November
Walk Harry to school, he is not as tired as I would have thought and we are then off to see Kate and her baby, Emily although not before noting the fungi in the back garden!
Kate was Sarah’s friend from school and whilst not having a particularly difficult birth found that Emily has a heart defect that necessitated her being rushed by air ambulance to Southampton hospital with Kate and partner following on a scheduled service. There is still some action to be taken but not until February so the situation has not worsened.
Collect Harry from School and we go to Ransom’s garden centre to see their lights and Christmas decorations. Not as good as St Peter’s garden centre display.
Tuesday 15 November
Breakfast at Colleen’s at Greve de Lecq followed by a brief walk along the beach and a visit again to St Peter’s garden centre for a few purchases that Sarah will have to bring over at Christmas, collect Harry from school, he walks much slower home in the afternoon than in the morning, he is obviously tired.
Very foggy and a few flights cancelled, so hope it clears up for tomorrow.
Wednesday 16 November
Early flight to Gatwick, on time and full with passengers from the cancellations yesterday. Pick up car and a drive down memory lane through the Sussex country side with it’s vibrant colours and into Steyning.
A drive up our old road, Hills Road, to see our old house and we are then off to our friends, Bob & Di with their imposing house and undisturbed views northwards towards the North downs.
We hadn’t seen them for about 5 years and whilst they have now done their kitchen, the rest of the house is little changed. Sadly their three girls were not able to get to Steyning to see us although they all live in Hove, due to work commitments.
Lunch in the White Horse, a complete contrast to what it was when we lived there and a stroll down the high street which has substantially changed in occupancy although, fortunately, very little has been altered building wise.
A couple of little courtyards with sheds for shops behind the flint clad buildings one of which was the old hotel where we spent our first night in Steyning all those years ago waiting for our furniture to arrive!
A new deli has opened and we opt for coffee there (the Sussex produce Company) which had a good selection of local bottled beers and wines.
Another deli nearby had a round solid cheese which we had been looking for, a Lancashire Bomb! I was just hoping that Security at the airport on the way home would not stop me to ask what it was – fortunately they didn’t!
Back to Bob & Di’s and a salad for tea before we head off for our hotel at Gatwick.
Thursday 17 November
Plenty of time today as flight not until 4:30pm. Drop car off, negotiate Gatwick Airport Railway Station with a train cancelled and an all stations train to London Bridge. Bag search at London City Airport delayed by a faulty tray with my bag taking 15 minutes to be looked at just to be told that it would have to go through again.
No apology from the staff member who then put the faulty tray back in the system! Very poor service and god knows what would have happened if I had missed my plane because of their inefficiency.
Next it’s Panto time with the Peel Pantoloons at the beginning of next month and a surprise for Mel!
A 10:00 ferry departure on a smooth crossing after the week’s winds but we nearly never made it. A car inexplicably pulled out of Ballaquark and nearly gave us a broadside. The cheek of the woman driver who seemed to imply it was our fault that we were on a main road and she was pulling out of a side road on our right!
Rain all the way down to Telford for our overnight, had hoped to explore the area a bit but no such luck in this rain. Evening meal in hotel very good, sat next to roaring gas fire, restaurant crowded, a good sign of a good meal. Excellent value
Drive to Flic & Gary’s. Gary in casualty as he has a damaged finger from yesterday’s rugby! Great to see Flic looking so well in her early stages of pregnancy! Meal out locally at The George and we are taken off to The Holiday Inn at Heathrow to meet up with John & Deirdre before tomorrow’s adventure. A very small room, so much so that the cases have to block the door to the room!
Taxi to airport, interestingly the same driver that took us to T5 back in March. No quibble about the fare this time though. Through security quickly although my iPad gets a second viewing behind an English woman who hadn’t put gels and liquids in a plastic bag. Didn’t spend my £80 voucher though.
Flight on time, comfortable seats, food OK but nearly a mile walk at Miami airport to get to immigration – too much! Five times Sal has to have fingerprints & photo taken, the system wouldn’t recognise her and it was slow so it took a long time to get out of the airport and to the car rental area.
A woman with limited smiling ability served us at the Alamo desk, she obviously didn’t enjoy her job but we were soon off to our hotel and, despite the thunder & lightning, a good sleep for us but not for John & Deirdre.
As expected, we wake early but manage to doze, meeting for breakfast at 8:30. Shops in Bayfront not open until 10:00 but a Cuban café is open which is cheaper than the hotel’s breakfast.
Try a jet boat around the harbour which also takes us out to the Atlantic Ocean in front of Miami Beach but no twirls; quite tame really.
Drive out and along Ocean Drive, Miami Beach before heading back to hotel for a rest, a swim in the hotel’s pool that seems to spend most of it’s time in the shade.
It would be interesting to test a court case on the terminology on the swimming pool’s sign which reads: Pool hours from Dusk to Dawn!
Out for dinner tonight and manage to park on South Beach for $30, probably a bit steep but that is the going rate.
A walk on the beach admiring the sights etc. before settling on an Italian restaurant for our meal.
Still pretty jet lagged, we leave the bright lights of Miami Beach behind and head back for a catch up on sleep time. No thunderstorms tonight.
Checkout is at midday so after breakfast at nearby Olé café & a look at Marshalls we head back to Intercontinental hotel before a quick walk, collect car, say goodby to the local wildlife and head off south.
Traffic absolutely horrendous with everyone leaving early because of the impending arrival of Hurricane Matthew, the first hurricane to hit Florida in 11 years and it is coming Miami’s way – heading northwards so we are glad we are heading South to the Keys.
Eventually manage to find some open road after crawling through the suburbs, stopping at every light and nearly getting hit by a car that just carried on, on my right, after the road had run out, nearly flipping over in the process right in front of us!😦. Very scary moment.
Reach Captain Pip’s ( our stop for tonight) in Marathon at about 4:30 after a 30 minute stop for lunch. 100 miles has taken us about 4 hours and we are welcomed by an office that is in a shack.
However, the rooms are comfortable and quiet with a sea view so hopefully a good night’s sleep despite my heavy head cold developing.
Dinner tonight at Sunset grille near the 7 mile bridge. Don’t go over the 7 Mile bridge we are told or you’ve missed it. Oops, too late.
Good meal, can recommend the Crab Au Gratin & the Key Lime Pie and of course the sunset view, not quite as good as it could be as a bit cloudy – we have however hopefully missed Hurricane Matthew which is expected to hit land north of Miami in a day or so.
My cold causes a few sleepless hours and of course there is no air, just very warm wind outside.
Check out by 10! Breakfast in The Stuffed Pig as Porky’s is closed due to the impending arrival of Hurricane Matthew (that’s their story) and then off to the nearby Turtle Hospital where they care for those injured in accidents, mainly, and caught up with sea debris.
It was difficult to get a proper full picture of them as mostly they were quite actively swimming around; near feeding time of course.
Now head down to Key West where temperature at 4pm is 32C and feels like 41C. The humidity is stifling and energy sapping so we were glad of some refreshment at the local French Bakery – La Grignote, (thoroughly recommended by the way) towards Southernmost point from Duval Street and Hurricane Matthew now nowhere to be seen.
This time we stayed at the Southernmost Guest House which is not to be confused with the Southernmost Hotel which is where we stayed 11 years ago but we did find a good restaurant nearby, an Italian, Abbondanza, where we also were 11 years ago.
Key Lime Pie not as good as before though.
Another sleepless night due to the head cold and an hour or so outside trying to get some air; no wind again.
Take a trolley tour around the centre of town which is very quiet. Many cancellations we are told as planes not flying from Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando because of Hurricane Matthew.
Stop off in Mallory Square for a smoothie which really is more ice than anything else and back for a rest, with lunch bought as a take out from La Grignote, the filled croissant is to be recommended.
Humidity is now well above 80% and we are flagging in the heat. It’s 31C and feels like over 40C even at 4pm.
After a swim in the very salty and warm sea at the nearby beach, get the trolley into town and walk around the harbour before eating at Conch Republic Seafood Company overlooking the harbour watching the boats going out to watch the sunset.
John & I get around the corner to watch the sunset but we have walked so much in this heat, we are all worn out and the girls don’t make it.
Taxi back and some free wine on the verandah before bed and, for me, another sleepless night due to the cold. It is quite peaceful at 2am outside!
John & Deirdre are off to Dry Tortuga on a sea plane for Deirdre to snorkel. Not sure it is John’s cup of tea though especially as he had socks on and had to step in ankle deep water to get on the sea plane.
Nevertheless, we think they enjoyed themselves.We pottered and I walked up Duval Street with a slight detour to the beginning of US1 (the end is in Fort Kent, Maine), to Fat Tuesday and back, having 2 strangers insist I take their photo on my camera, before getting lunch from La Grignote again, we do like it, and collect John & Deirdre from the airport before a swim in the sea.
The nearby (to the Guest House) Key West butterfly & Nature Conservatory was a haven of coolness in the afternoon although John preferred a snooze in the Guest House’s hammock!
Not only does the Butterfly & Nature Conservatory house so many different species of butterflies which, incidentally, are extremely difficult to photograph as they are continually on the move or when resting have their wings folded so are not exactly photogenic, but various birds are in residence some of which obviously are there to entertain us tourists.
A long drive today up the 1 from milepost 0 having located Harry S Truman’s Little White House for our next visit as a house to go around.
This is a long and slow road and we eventually leave the 1 at Homestead, stopping for gas at a very country style gas station.
Onwards onto the 41 and Westwards towards Naples, stopping off at an information centre at Ochopee where you can usually see Alligators, we were lucky.
Road surface generally good and much better than I remember from our drive 11 years ago.
Tonight in Holiday Inn Express and a meal at the adjacent Olive Garden.
Drive to Marco Island and a walk on Tigertail beach. Lots of bird life, jumping fish and some dolphins out to sea.
Whilst I wade across the channel to the other side, the others watch me and a party of girls who followed me to ensure we all crossed without too much difficulty.
Only a packet of polo’s suffered in my pocket with the salt water.
Red algae had killed many fish which were just lying at high water mark including a sting ray and a conch.
According to a local it happens regularly but nothing between November and March. So many dead fish and shells also, making it quite difficult where to tread. And the smell!
A few shops visited afterwards and we then watch the sunset at Naples pier after driving past some very grand houses, possibly worth about $10m each.
Dinner tonight in The Cheesecake Factory who still insist on extra large portions – much too much for us.
Another drive today, but not as far, only 70 or so miles and we stop at a shopping Mall at Estero for Crocs for Harry and then in a SuperTarget, possibly the biggest store we have ever been in. A diversion to Fort Myers airport for John to sort out his Travelex card and then on to a Panera Bread for lunch.
Arrive at Sunburst Condonimium on Bradenton beach in time to wander down to bay to see Dolphins, jumping fish, pelicans, egrets and more before disappearing off for a meal at nearby Steffano’s, a different type of place and we had finished by 8pm as the last customers.
Back to the condo, internet doesn’t work! 😦.
Office closed now until Thursday so we end up having several games of shit head most of which John won.
A relaxing morning in overcast conditions catching up with the washing, paddling in the sea and watching a tortoise clamber over a wall to get to some shady vegetation.
The beach is certainly not as sandy as I remember it from before with the effects of the red tide evident on the beach with some dead fish and crabs. Not as much as on Tigertail beach the other day but still smelly. Apparently the County will clear the dead away soon but the red tide is very late this year.
The condo has been refurbished outside but inside it is very much in need of updating in places – old fashioned decor, 5 remotes for one TV and some ill fitting furniture.
It was very clean but had been left shut up for some time before our arrival and was a bit musty on first arrival although this did clear very quickly.
Crockery clean but doesn’t match, cutlery clean but not enough spoons.
Venture out to Gasperilla island ( $6 toll and $3 to park ), a sleepy little strip of land with a fast flowing current at the end of it, loads & loads of shells and an element of coastal erosion.
A long walk by and in the sea and then back to the town of Boca Grande for lunch at the Loose Caboose, so named as it is at the end of a dismantled railway line.
Charging $5 for cutting two sandwiches in half was a bit steep though. Still, we manage to catch up on emails as we still don’t have Internet access at the Condo.
Food shopping in Publix for tonight’s Chinese meal, a look at the jumping fish and an unwelcome shower or two of rain. A quiet night in as we have an early start tomorrow.
After an early start and finding a dying cockroach in the kitchen area, we leave before the office is open and check in at 08:30 at Fisherman’s Wharf in Punto Garda for a 09:00 boat trip to Cabbage Key via Costa Key.
Only about 28 on board and 5 get off at Costa Key for the shell beach.
Not a lot to see whilst we pass down the Peace River and not a particularly communicative captain.
One of the mates takes time to show us where we are going on our 3 hour cruise, but virtually no dolphin sightings, just several birds dive bombing for fish.
Cabbage key has a restaurant, and we are advised to eat early as it gets crowded. No food and drinks are otherwise allowed on the island. As it turns out, the restaurant was emptier as the time went by.
The restaurant has a unique style of wallpaper, $1 dollar bills adorn virtually every inch of the ceiling, walls and supporting posts.
All have an inscription written on them by past customers. A bit pricey for a lunch but I think you would expect that bearing in mind food has to be transported by boat for such a long journey.
There is the possibility to stay there overnight but there is not a lot to do there other than a trail to walk around (20 mins. Max.), the tortoises to see and probably fishing. Had we missed the boat back at 1:45 we would have had to wait another two days for the next cruise back to Punta Gorda!
Pass, both going there and coming back, the private up market island of Useppa Island we are told that you cannot just land and wander around, you have to belong to an owner’s club or as a guest of the hotel.
John manages to sight a dolphin on the way back but it is soon gone and we are back at the harbour for a walk through the shopping centre and head for the JC Penney shopping mall on way back to Sunburst Condominiums, a meal there and a few games of cards before bed.
A sunny day, our wedding anniversary and we spend the morning trying to talk through the internet problems with the complex’s manager. It is no use to us that the supplier was here last Friday and now can’t come back until 19 October, after we have left.
At least we can sit on the office’s porch and get Internet access from the office – not ideal at all but better than nothing! There was another very sleepy cockroach this morning, all as a result, we are told of the de-bugging carried out recently. Now the waste disposal doesn’t work!
Still, not to have a day spoiled, we head for Myakka State Park and a ride on the lake having loads of bird life and Alligators pointed out to us.
We also gingerly get out of the car and walk down a boardwalk to see a few other birds and delve deep into the scrub, bush, swamp (call it what you like) to get to the top of a canopy walk only to find our way blocked by water.
John & Deirdre do find a way through and up onto the canopy though after which we return to the Condominium; still no internet access!
Dinner tonight at the nearby restaurant, Gulf View, a bit noisy and with house wine advertised at $6 a bottle we thought that would do.
A bit upset with the restaurant that they couldn’t provide us with a sunset table and also began to suggest that we would have a 40 minute wait for our table even though we had booked.
It was only a 40 minute wait for a sunset table but as sunset was in 2 minutes, that was no benefit. Our table was at the back of the restaurant.
The White Zinfandel was not available we were told so would this do, handing over another bottle. Yes we said, and whilst the wine was nice, it was charged to us at $46! The food was good and we did manage to get the wine down by $15 but the experience will be on Trip Advisor. Excellent saxophonist on the ground floor bar area added to the ambience.
Book a paddle board experience for myself (an SUP) at 11 so a late breakfast for me, half way through which we get an unexpected visitation from John’s former colleague, Jean, who used to own one of the condos in the block, her sister and her brother in law.
Jean tells us that the condo we are in is owned by an elderly couple which is why the decor is somewhat old. She is disgusted with what has gone on here since she sold up.
She now has a house a few miles away nearer to Boca Grande and invites us to their house to watch the football tomorrow, Middlesborough v Watford, and whilst I am so tempted, I don’t think it is possible as we have to be out of here at 10am and the match starts at 8am.
Set off for Stump Pass for the SUP experience and after a few brief words from the instructor, he leaves me to it. No dry run for me, with wind and tide pushing me inshore and into the trees, I spend more time in the water than on it. Try kneeling and sitting to get balance but moving from one position to another is impossible.
Eventually, I manage to stand up and get out into the river but there are so many passing boats ignoring the speed limit the wake they produce invariably throws me off balance or pushes me into the numerous overhanging branches.
One boat in particular caused a capsize and loss of my sun glasses.😟
After a coffee collected by John & Deirdre, I set off again, this time venturing further afield although my inability to turn round caused a capsize, a scrape with a landing post, a badly cut leg and the inability to get back on.
Fortunately, the water was shallow enough, just, to allow me to touch the bottom, push the paddle board back to where the others were patiently waiting having managed to get back on and paddle the last bit.
At least I have done it and, I think, no wildlife was harmed in the process.
Back to condo for a shower, a clean up and then out to Target for final purchases and, to please John, a McDonalds dinner. The apple pies took an exceptionally long time to arrive and we left trying to get to see the sunset.
Just my luck to pass a Sherriff’s car just before the condo and he said I was doing 39 in a 25 speed limit having pulled me over.
After a lengthy wait, none of us were allowed out of the car so we all missed the sunset, I get let off with a warning; phew! Had visions of something worse, but perhaps he didn’t fancy the paperwork for an Isle of Man licence?
We move on today to Cocoa Beach on the East coast of Florida, via drive northwards on Mannesota key, and the I-4 from Tampa to Orlando, stopping at an I-Hop for lunch on the “192” near downtown Kissimmee.
Staying in a Holiday Inn Express at Cocoa Beach and after settling in, a walk to cocoa Beach which wasn’t as I expected, lots of activity though and a few fishermen.
With the help from the receptionist, have dinner at Gregory’s – about 2 miles away, good choice but I never saw her again to thank her for the suggestion.
Absolutely shattered but not a particularly good sleep. Cold still bad and leg cut still sore.
Breakfast area too small for the number of guests but we do manage to grab a table. Lots of guests setting out to the nearby Port Canaveral for a Disney cruise so lots of noisy kids and quite a few tired ones.
For us, a day at Kennedy Space Centre, about 10 miles away and whilst not crowded, lots of German speaking people off a cruise ship so they had a coach to get back on which emptied the park quite substantially at about 3pm.
A bus tour to the other site, a couple of films and a walk underneath the space craft, it is amazing how big this thing is.
We were there last on Boxing Day 2010 and it has changed quite a bit at the main area, although the other site at the end of the bus tour was the same as I remember it nearly 6 years ago.
A couple of alligators and the Bald Eagle’s nest were pointed out to us before we returned to the main area for one of the two 3D IMAX cinema presentation. This is one of the best presentations of this type I have seen, explaining a lot in language we could all understand.
Lunch followed by the other 3D film, again an excellent presentation on how the astronauts survive.
Then on to the Atlantis section, the area showcasing what they are doing to get to Mars and a ride in the simulator that is supposed to show how you would fare in a take-off.
It wasn’t as good as I thought it would be though but the main feature of the area was the space craft, Atlantis which is awesomely huge.
Some interaction with spacemen which was aimed at children would have looked better had there been any children around to appreciate it.
Dinner tonight at Applebee’s on the way back to the hotel and a walk to Publix to spend $4.39 in coins on cheesecake, our last of this holiday.
Our last day and we travel slowly down the A1A southwards taking in the views of the decent houses after we have left Cocoa Beach, the mounds of broken vegetation by the side of the road awaiting collection that is as a result of the wind and floods caused by Hurricane Matthew.
Stop off at Sebastian Inlet State Park Beach to watch the waves and the birds before heading south again.
Our last lunch in Panera Bread for some time but the traffic is very heavy and with one near miss, no arrows showing a lane closure, I have to stop for fresh air and a coffee before hitting the road again for the rest of the journey.
Filling up with fuel some way from the car depot saved us over $1 a gallon but then got stuck in a traffic jam whilst a train crosses the road ahead.
A decent 4 hours sleep for us, but not for John & Deirdre who, in the baggage reclaim area at Heathrow, collapses. The first aiders at the airport were marvellous and Deirdre was taken (with John) to Hillingdon hospital for a check up after about an hour before being released about 6 hours after we landed. Nothing found, perhaps it was exhaustion?
After being checked over at Hillingdon hospital, John & Deirdre then had to return to Heathrow to collect their bags before getting a cab to home.
We catch bus to Reading station to be met by Flic (who had found out today she had lost her job – not unexpected!) and a tiring drive to Haydock.
Breakfast in Bents, can’t believe they have a full Christmas display already, and a calm sail back from Heysham.
Another adventure in the USA is over, a somewhat unexpected and traumatic end to a thoroughly enjoyable (apart from being stopped by the police) adventure.
Now a few days rest before we are off to London, Jersey, France and Steyning.
After a decent weather spell, we have to endure drizzle as we board our flight to London City having taken the bus to the airport for a change.
John Rimmer gives us some interesting ideas for activities as we meet up in departures, very kind. Jubilee line at Canning Town is disrupted so we head up to West Ham for the District line to join a very crowded Piccadilly line at Barons Court on our onward journey to Heathrow.
Overnight at the Sofitel at Heathrow T5 with a meal at the restaurant and a good night’s sleep.
Monday 19 September
Walk the half mile to T5 for a croissant before we meet up with Elizabeth who has coached it down from Solihull. Costa coffee then through security and lunch in Giraffe.
Flight less than a quarter full but two guys in front of us getting well and truly merry on BA’s free drinks policy.
Luggage collected, and at the car hire, car offered was a Nissan Qashqui which is good as that is one I wanted to test drive (again) before we decided on our next car.
Find hotel, Barcelo Hamilton in Es Castell, with not too much difficulty with the help of our ancient Sat Nav whose pronunciation of Avenguda de Franscesc Femenias seemed to put an ‘r’ between the last two letters!
Parking is going to be difficult here with only a few spaces in front of the hotel which are free, otherwise the hotel’s car park is €10 and a short walk away.
Not overly hungry so we opt for Tapas by the waterfront below the hotel, watching moon appear.
Tuesday 20 September
Breakfast on the terrace is a buffet with the sun bleating down on us.
Opt for a day in Mahon as there is a market present today but just miss a bus and although police lady says another one in 30 minutes, it is the only time of the day when there is an hour gap between buses.
Spend some of the time in the local church but it is a bit bland compared with others. Even some locals appear to be caught out by the hour gap. Still, there is a windmill to look at!
Nothing really worth buying so we head off down to the rampart sort of area past the Pont de Sant Roc and find a good view of the harbour, grab lunch and head back to the bus station for our journey back to Es Castell by which time it is raining.
As it is still raining, a walk to town for dinner is out of the question so we eat at the hotel’s buffet which is quite a good spread.
Not bad for €20 each with a bottle of wine an additional €13.
Wednesday 21 September
All rain passed through although breakfast tables on the terrace still quite wet this morning.
No bus journey today, we use our car for a tour around the South East corner of the island starting at a lovely secluded area, Cala de St Esteve with it’s deep water and sheltered cove and several properties to let.
Then on to En Caragol for a coffee and a scramble across the rocks. It is certainly out of season, just a couple of cyclists for company.
More people at our stop for lunch in Binibeca and it seems a lot of them are locals.
Binibeca is a quaint little coastal port and worth a stop for a stroll around the cove (and of course lunch).
All of these bays and coves have little or no beaches they are all rocky, and there is no coastal road between them so you are always returning on yourself.
Head back for a rest and an afternoon drink managing to get the last car parking space!
Dinner tonight, we thought would be in the hotel’s cave on the waterfront but having got downstairs and found two little restaurants, opt for the only one that is open to discover that it is an independent one not associated with the hotel, the hotel one opening at 8pm.
So glad we stayed at Restaurant Ana Luisa as both the owner and his wife, Francesca, not only fed us delicious Paella, much more than we could eat but entertained us with laughter all evening.
We hadn’t been left any extra tea, coffee or milk in the room so go to reception to get more only to be told that the package we were on was for only tea & coffee on arrival, not every day, and we would have to pay for more!!
Never heard anything so outrageous for a top class hotel, I left reception speechless.
I doubt if British Airways, through who we booked. Come to think of it, do they care?
The hotel does have a roof top pool (very small) and some whirlpools but I was told that they were not heated so were not really worth going in.
However, they did look quite inviting after dark when they were lit up.
Thursday 22 September
Another glorious sunny day to start with but not able to get a table outside for breakfast. However, we do take advantage of the champagne that is free, shame about the in room tea & coffee!
Head off in the car to Mahon and pick up the main road down the backbone of the island to Ciutadella de Menorca, an ancient capital of the island. Parking in the centre is difficult but manage to find plenty around the school on Carrer de Madrid and head towards the sea.
Find a watering hole (we need it, it is exceptionally hot today) near the front which seemed to be populated by locals rather than tourists, and watch the inter island ferries from Barcelona or Majorca dock at nearby Port de Ciutadella.
A slow walk around the bay with Cala en Busquets on the opposite bank with it’s wonderful houses, the charming harbour in front of us and we soon reach the old town with its stone buildings still being used; no ruins here, and we arrive just in time for the shops to shut for their siesta which means it must be lunchtime.
Off after lunch to the Lighthouse of Artrutx – the most South Westerly point of the island – with it’s strategically place light house which is now a restaurant.
Again, a rocky coastline from which there are distant views of the island of Majorca and the cliffs further East on Minorca of Son Bou where we are heading next.
A couple of large hotels have disgorged their guests onto the sandy beach here with many people sun bathing and a few children playing in the sea and sand.
Surely this place will be heaving in the summer with possibly no sand left to sit on unless you get there early morning.
We were told before we left that there were some Naturist beaches in Menorca but no sight of them or signage for them at all – obviously well hidden.
Grab a drink at the beach bar and back for a rest before a walk around the bay to the main town of Es Castell and its picturesque harbour before a stroll back to Restaurant Ana Louisa for dinner again with the moonlight shining on the waterfront aided by some street lamps.
Funny that it wasn’t until later on in the walk around the bay that Sal & Elizabeth remembered that they had visited the bay before when they visited on their own in 2011!
Tonight, the restaurant is packed and at one stage potential customers are being asked to return in up to 30 minutes when a table is free.
The pork dish is also to be recommended.
The hotel’s cave restaurant is empty whilst Restaurant Ana Louisa is full. I’m all for supporting the local economy especially as this family grow many of their own vegetables on an allotment.
Readers; try Ana Louisa restaurant in Es Castell if you are ever there and say hi to Francesca!
Friday 23 September
Our last day and after a fine start with breakfast on the terrace head off for the northern coast.
First stop the picturesque port of Fornells where we had been recommended to dine at a particular restaurant – sadly now demolished.
Lunch was elsewhere then in the town (my Spanish is not good to say the least and what I ordered was minimal to say the least) before heading off East to a couple of other bays including Es Grau.
Can’t say we enthused about Arenal d’en Castell, a bit too much like a holiday camp atmosphere for our liking and whilst Es Grau was nice, the beach was reached by a bridge over stagnant smelly water.
But, it would be a good place to learn to canoe and sailboard as it is a very sheltered cove with a decent beachside café, free parking and some nicely painted (white of course) houses.
With an hour or so before we need to be at the airport, we head for the area opposite our Barcelo Hamilton hotel which has many sumptuous houses with fantastic West facing properties, some of which are for sale and one of which was being worked on by a single person – that is going to take ages.
That’s it for Minorca but you never, we might come back some time. flight back to Heathrow slightly late but full, unlike the outward journey.
Overnight back at the Sofitel so not far to walk.
Early rise and a quicker journey to London City than from it earlier in the week for our flight back home and a week’s rest before we head to Florida with John & Deirdre.
BA, lunchtime flight after just under two weeks of guests, both friends & paying (Homestay) and we find ourselves on an full (of mostly spectators from the bike racing) Embraer 170 Jet to London City when normally the service is operated by a prop plane.
Cloud over the Midlands but fine weather over the Essex coast and good connections using our Oyster Card to Gatwick where we do have a few hours to pass before we are off to Jersey.
Bonus: we find a £20 note in Gatwick airport and flight to Jersey on time with 2nd bonus: a £10 note found at Jersey airport before Ali picks us up. Harry asleep when we get to their house.
Thursday 1 September
Sarah & Ali both at work so we take Harry to Elizabeth Castle on the amphibious vehicle ((duck)) although as the tide is out we only travel on land.
Harry not sure of man who he called a “pirate” but was in reality a guy dressed up as an Elizabethan Soldier who gave a talk in the courtyard.
The thought of a loud bang from the cannon made him scared again but he did like the German built bunkers (left over from the WWII Occupation) and the walk up the stairs to St Helier’s Hermitage.
In fact when the cannon fired he just accepted it as it wasn’t when we thought it was going to be.
The castle is a fascinating place showing structures from early days to the time of the German Occupation of the Channel Islands.
We used to live in Jersey and one of the places we lived in was overlooking St Aubin’s Bay where the castle is situated so for about 5 years we had seen the castle every day we were on the island with our middle daughter even working there for a few years in her teen years.
Possibly only the third or fourth time we had been in the castle though.
Friday 2 September
Take Harry on the “Bessie Bikes” which is a strain on both our legs as the bikes are old and very heavy.
For our one hour, we only manage a cycle to First Tower and back, probably a distance of two miles – Harry says when he is taller he will be able to help by peddling himself!
Then off to The Coronation park for a couple of hours, Harry loves the zip wire and the big orange swing , goodness knows how many times he went on them.
Ali had arranged for us through his work, to have a short test drive in a Kia Sportage and whilst we had it only for about 40 minutes, it was on trade plates so the small sized roads were a challenge. Nice car though and one to consider when we are changing ours probably next year.
Saturday 3 September
Harry shows us his surfing skills at Ouaisne, managing to kneel up for a couple of waves – impressive.
The downside of the day was me getting a wasp sting but thanks to the beach cafe, Kismet Cabana, who provided a frozen bottle of water, the swelling and sting effect was marginally reduced. (Red swelling and itching still in evidence a week later – mark of sting still there when we left Jersey).
Sunday 4 September
A trip on the bus to St Aubin and a ride back on the mini train whilst Sarah runs a Lifesaving course followed by lunch at La Fregate.
Harry not particularly well tonight but hopefully will be better by tomorrow for his big day.
Monday 5 September
Harry’s first day at school with Sarah & Me walking up to the school with him. The traffic!
With at five schools in the vicinity catering for children of all ages it is no wonder there are lots of cars as the bus service for schools is not good to say the least.
A part of the walk involves walking on a pavement no wider than about 4 foot and guess what, cars wiz by at 30 mph (or illegally, more) – it is a recipe for an accident.
No breakfast club for him today as it is his first day. He was warmly greeted by the staff and didn’t seem too phased by it, certainly not upset.
Sarah cycles off to work and I walk back before Sal & I head out for breakfast at Colleen’s at Greve de Lecq, a paddle in the sea and a lazy day.
Collect Harry after school rather than send him to after school club on his first day. He doesn’t say much about what he did though!
Tuesday 6 September
I take him to school myself – he has settled in so well he tells me to go once he has put his things on his peg; you know when you are not wanted!
We go off to St Peter’s garden centre for coffee with Pam Hainsworth which turned into a lunch as well – so much to catch up on.
Harry not happy when we pick him up from after school club, he was crying as there was “nothing to do” but perhaps we had picked him up too early. He soon got over it though.
A meal out tonight for us with Laura & Jim at the Windmill in the north of the island. Food good but a very limited menu and no deserts offered, I don’t think they have a desert menu!
Wednesday 7 September
Ali and I take Harry to breakfast club to show Ali where to go. Ali jogs back home to get his car rather than sit in the enormous traffic jam that forms from St Saviour’s School to town at this time of day – well over a mile and a half – whilst I turn the car around and return to their house sitting in the jam.
Morning coffee with Sue Thorne at Le Quesne’s garden centre and after lunch I walk into town to visit NWB but have to wait for about an hour to see someone, then off to Trek Plus, which is closing down soon, to see if there are any bargains.
There weren’t but Sarah had yesterday found a North Face jacket reduced to £50 from over £200. Bump into Mark & Sarah Baudet who I hadn’t seen for about 14 years and who I had worked with when in Jersey. The walk up the hill back to Sarah & Ali’s is a hard hill to climb.
Thursday 8 September
Battle of Britain Air show day and the schools are closed for the day. Sarah @ Ali have to work though so it is our turn to look after Harry who is not particularly enamoured with the noise of the planes.
We take him out for a play in the Elephant park near Red Houses, spotting an enormous grasshopper on the pink elephant whilst we are there.
We are told that the Red Arrows will be taking off soon from the airport on their way to the Guernsey air show in the morning so we drive up to the airport and then down to St Ouen’s.
Quite by chance as we turn off and head back to the Co-op for food shopping the Red Arrows take off over our heads in their take off formation of threes.
Quite a site but I wasn’t prepared enough to have a camera handy.
Back home after shopping and watch some of the display from the back garden including a Lancaster being followed by a Spitfire and the French equivalent of The Red Arrows.
Sarah phones to say there is plenty of parking at her office so we drive up there just in time to see a Vulcan(?) but well in time for the marvellous display of the Red Arrows, an annual part of the Jersey International Air display.
Their manoeuvre included some overhead flights with a clear blue sky and the sun more or less behind me so some good close up photography was possible albeit that the Red Arrows travel at anything up to 600 miles per hour!
A 30 minute display was, sadly, all too soon over.
Friday 9 September
Harry all settled in at school so my early morning service was merely to virtually drop him at the door of the breakfast club.
Morning coffee in Ransoms followed by a walk round Queen’s Valley Reservoir and an ice cream with real Jersey cream at Gorey. Lovely view of Mont Orgueil castle with the tide quite high. One of my favourite views in Jersey is of Mont Orgueil castle with France in the background.
Drinks in town at Cock & Bottle with Martin & family who are over from Switzerland partially on business and partially to watch the air display. I haven’t had a Friday night in St Helier for probably 16 years!
Saturday 10 September
A dull day with some rain around, although still hot. Watch Harry at his swimming lessons and whilst he can swim, he needs the proper breathing to be taught to him. Then into town, get a clock battery for £1 in the market and bump into Ian, a Harmony Men singer who I last saw – quite by chance – on a flight to Orlando a few years back. Ali has gone climbing and Harry is at a party so we have a couple of ours rest before we are out to Laura & Jim’s for a curry.
Sarah, Ali & Harry sleep out in their new tent tonight but not sure it was a total success.
Sunday 11 September
Off blackberry picking near the prison but they are not quite ripe yet, still, manage to get some for Sarah to make jam with.
Somehow manage to mislay Harry’s croc there so have to go back to look for it from the other side of the island after our lobster lunch at St Catherine’s breakwater café. Harry loves his lobster!
Fortunately, the croc was there some 4 hours later so grandpa’s blushes were spared. Naughty Grandpa. Still it did allow us another Jersey Ice Cream at St Ouen’s whilst we watched a truck pull a camper van out of the sand.
Harry off to lifesaving tonight with Sarah whilst we pack for home tomorrow.
Monday 12 September
Ali drops us at airport and whilst we have an uneventful flight, luggage takes over an hour to arrive and by the time we get to railway line, train to London Bridge not for another 30 minutes, so it is 90+ minutes since landing that we leave the airport complex.
Arrive 30 minutes too early at London City airport but soon through for our flight home, somewhat exhausted. We will sleep well tonight, I think.
After the last few days rain and concerns over a repair to the car, we are on our way to Heysham. Sadly no fast ferry to Liverpool (it was on docking trials to Holyhead) so boat is crowded and we have the wrong ticket, only one +car rather than 2+car so have to go and buy another ticket – fortunately only £15.
Lovely smooth crossing with the sun glistening off the water and a few sea birds dive bombing around us for fish but somehow no internet access, nice croissants for breakfast though.
Take back roads through part of Yorkshire and Lancashire instead of the M6 Motorway as we always seem to be chasing up or down that awful road. Interesting buildings in Hebden Bridge, some good, some not so nice and we get to John & Deirdre’s just after 6.
Friday 1 July
Manage to get all the luggage into our car so only one car needed for our long drive to just outside Bideford on crowded roads, slow moving traffic, resurfaced roads slowing traffic even more.
A stop for lunch in Farringdon was very welcome, a good place is The Sadlers with it’s array of interesting artefacts.
Our cottage is in the Webbery Estate is a complex of about 8 properties spread out so that no one is overlooked, or too close to each other.
The Webbery Estate is about 5 or 6 miles inland from the North Devon coast in lovely undulating Devon hills.
The cottage is well appointed, with good internet access, a coal fire, many, many books although the settee is a bit uncomfortable.
We also have virtually a free run in the two walled vegetable gardens although the tomatoes are not quite ripe we are told. The rhubarb, the Loganberries, the gooseberries and the lettuce and beetroot all taste better when they go virtually straight from the ground to the kitchen table.
An early night after two days of driving.
Saturday 2 July
Head first of all for Croyde and then to Putsborough and a walk on it’s sandy beach at a cost of £8 for parking.
Lots of surfers, some on what looked like banana boats but others testing themselves on the constant breakers crashing on the incoming tide.
A surprisingly large amount of jellyfish stranded and waiting for the incoming tide and many dips in the sand still containing water from the last tide.
Lunch (bacon baps) in the beach café before we head off for Ilfracombe for a walk around the harbour, a homemade ice cream and a marvel at the big statue of the pregnant woman, Verity, by Damien Hirst that completely dominates the landscape.
One side of the statue is cut away to show the woman’s muscles on her back and the unborn baby in the front.
At ground level there appears to be no description of it’s name, what it represents or who created it and it is only if you venture up the hill behind and into St Nicholas Chapel that you can establish the facts.
I think they missed an opportunity here to advertise it more.
Back to the cottage for tennis viewing whilst the occasional shower passed us by followed by a visit to the fruit cage for desert tonight.
Sunday 3 July
We are off today to visit Arlington Court and meet up with friends Mick & Brenda.
Didn’t know much about it beforehand but it also houses the National Carriage collection as well as many interesting artefacts inside the house.
Sir Francis Chichester’s family owned it (he of round the world single handed yatchsman fame) so there is a nautical theme as well including a model of The Lady of Mann vessel used at Dunkirk.
Also shown to us was the original Wimbledon Ladies Final plate – the one presented today is a more modern version.
The rest of the inside of the house was pretty awesome as well!
Now to venture outside and to the carriage collection where many old and interesting carriages and fittings are beautifully preserved, many with fascinating histories and providence including a travelling Chariot.
Tea at the café was very welcome after our stroll and we parted knowing that we would all see each other again in January 2017.
Monday 4 July
Weather was not supposed to be so good today so we opt for a train ride to Exeter on the little line from Barnstaple known as the Tarka line – something to do with lots of Otters in the valley.
A very ancient bus type diesel two coach train sped its way southwards on the mostly single track picking up a few passengers at some remote stations on the way and was quite crowded by the time we reach Exeter St Davids where most seem to get off for connections elsewhere.
We however stay on and climb the very steep incline to Exeter Central for a stroll around the city.
We had seen on the local news that an “exhibition” or “art display” was to be held in the Northenhay gardens near the station based upon the numbers of people killed at the Somme in the First World War. (19240 Shrouds of the Somme).
Old fashioned “dolly” pegs covered in material to represent the fallen was very moving and very well presented.
The artist was there but was busy with other visitors so we didn’t have time to talk.
I did however find reference to 13 casualties with my surname – something to ponder for family research in the future?
Off now to join the many tourists at the Cathedral. Access not allowed when we get there due to a funeral so after coffee and lunch at Cote we venture in to a wonderfully preserved building.
The limited space on this blog prevents me from showing all the pictures I took – just go there and look for yourselves!!!
Tuesday 5 July
Ok, I admit it, I am a train “buff” and own shares in the West Somerset Railway Company based at Minehead.
It is not a long drive there and we soon settle down on an old fashioned 1970s type carriage with my free travel tickets for a nostalgic journey being pulled by a stream engine towards Bishops Lydeard some 22.75 miles away.
Comfy bouncy seating, a buffet on board and a friendly ticket inspector – what more do you need other than the evocative smell of a steam engine!
We pass a couple of trains going the other way but not a lot to see at Bishops Lydeard.
Some day they might be able to get a through service on a regular basis to Taunton and tap into some extra passengers into Minehead and off the clogged roads.
Return to Minehead behind Ravingham Hall (6960) with some still lovely sunny weather and good views over the Somerset countryside.
Back at Minehead, take a view of the books on sale before a walk along the sea front and a drive back along a different route. A great day out.
Wednesday 6 July
A bit of sea adventure today as it is a clear day – a Rib boat ride from Ilfracombe. 12 of us fit onto this boat which after a safety briefing speeds out to the sea heading Westwards. Stop No. 1 is by the tunnels built to allow bathers to reach other beaches.
There were once two sea water swimming pools, one for men and the other for women & children but now sadly they have fallen into disrepair.
Then onto Lee bay where a house on the beach recently changed hands for about £1m but is probably uninsurable as it floods at least twice a year on the spring tides.
We pass at speed the lighthouse that marks the boundary between the Bristol Channel and the Atlantic Ocean but slow down to see a few seals basking in the sun on the recently exposed rocks on the falling tide.
A fast journey back with a few turns, no spins, in the bay outside the harbour and our 1 hour journey is over too soon.
A fish & chips Lunch at The Pier and then off to Instow for a walk & an ice cream followed by a journey through Bideford and Appldore and return to watch tennis and ultimately the Euro football 16 Semifinal where, somewhat predictably, Wales were knocked out.
Thursday 7 July
A visit today to Marwood Hill Gardens (http://marwoodhillgarden.co.uk/), rather like the Bouchart Gardens on Victoria Island near Vancouver, Canada. Some lovely plants, including several colours of pinks blues and purple.
Lots of steep hills that Sal managed to climb and a welcome cream tea in the cafe after our visit.
Sadly, my e-mail to Katy at Webbery failed to get through so we didn’t get our requested potatoes. Still had a lovely meal and much cheaper than a meal out.
Friday 8 July
Drizzle first thing but by the time we left Webbery we were in glorious sunshine with temperatures up to 23 on the way up the M5. Some tailbacks delayed our progress but didn’t stop us getting to John Lewis at Cribbs Causeway for lunch and then up to the M40 before we had to divert off the A43 route as it was closed for the British Grand Prix.
An early night is called for and fortunately the music from the Bromham Village fete only lasted until 11pm
Saturday 9 July
Set off early to help Flic move her stuff from her High Wycombe flat prior to it’s sale. Car warning light comes on only about 2 miles from Bromham but carry on in the hope that it is an Oxygen Sensor.
It was a struggle for Wye Residential to locate the keys to flat but eventually they are found and we head up to Mickleford for the last time.
Lots of things to retrieve from the loft, including a Moses Basket and a Baby walker both in good condition.
Off to Reading after establishing that the IoM Toyota garage did not have an up to date dealership list and sent me to a Hyundai dealership instead. Take rubbish to tip in Reading using Flic & Gary’s pass. An impressive structure where sorting is done speedily although the queue to get in wasn’t speedy. Call AA who confirm my suspicion of an Oxygen Sensor fault and car is OK to drive.
Drive up to Birmingham HIE for an overnight.
Sunday 10 July
After breakfast, a visit to Notcutts to get a couple of matching flower pots and then off to Alan & Debbie’s for a catch up and a meet up with Sally’s cousin, Veronica Willks and her husband. The two had not met before!
A fantastic meal and lots of talking by the three cousins, Alan, Sally & Veronica.
The plan was for an Indian meal later that evening but we were all so full we just had nibbles whilst watching the Euro 16 final.
Monday 11 July
Debbie already on way to work by the time we wake up, we must have been tired, so just three of us, 3 dogs and a cat for breakfast ( no, we didn’t eat the dogs & cat!).
Drive cross country towards Llangollen and stop for a walk over the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Not sure I liked it that much in the wind which was only probably a Force 4.
Certainly would not like it in any cross wind. Impressive structure constructed y Thomas Telford between 1795 and 1805.
On to Llangollen but difficult to park so venture on minor roads to Carrog for a coffee in the deserted station café.
A delightfully restored station with replica milk bottles on the platform making it very authentic.
Shame no train was due for another hour as we had to head off for the ferry via a Sainsbury’s and Aldi stop.
Not quite sure why, but a very crowded Executive lounge on tonight’s sailing with a couple of very loud business men nearby so no chance of sleep.
Another adventure over and we await in a few days time, the arrival of our friend Elizabeth later in the month when Sally & Elizabeth sample the Trike Ride around the TT course. http://www.iomtriketours.com
Only back for a day from Switzerland and we are back to the airport to pick up our friends John & Deirdre who have been invited over to the Island by Mel, our youngest who is celebrating a significant birthday.
No car problems this time – we had a flat battery when we got back form Switzerland – but some inclement weather for the first day – not shorts weather at all.
First of all a visit to the Sound to seal watch then after dinner for a walk along Douglas head (weather had got better) but surprised John got a “Welcome to Guernsey” message on his phone.
The next day it was back to the airport to collect Sarah & Harry who had overnighted at Gatwick and caught an early EasyJet flight.
Having borrowed a car seat from a former colleague we were well equipped to take Harry and Sarah around the Island.
It was Harry’s 2nd visit and this time we were able to take in a walk along Douglas Prom and see the Horse trams.
Harry wasn’t sure they were running (that was us telling him) but as soon as he saw them his face lit up “They are running” were his excited words.
The locals love them but hate to go on them and would also hate to see them be stopped. The saga will continue.
Anyway, Harry had to go on them of course and one ride up and down the Prom before stopping to try and get a non dairy ice cream for him, unsuccessfully, sadly.
The Isle of Man has more trams than this though and it was off to Laxey on the Electric Tram to watch the Laxey wheel and the 3rd type of tram on the island – the one that goes up to the top of the Mountain – but certain people couldn’t stand the pace!
The following day was the big day with a walk on Port Erin beach followed by a meal at the Harbour Lights in Peel.
A lovely meal for the birthday girl with lots of friends, colleagues and family but sadly missing ~ Flic who had to attend a work orientated course in the UK.
A tired Harry – as were the rest of us – and the following day Harry & Sarah had to leave for home in Jersey and for once EasyJet was on time(ish) but definitely not cancelled.
That’s it for significant birthdays for a while then, not sure whose is next but less of that – it is TT in a week’s time and we have Homestay guests arriving.
Most of the bikers have gone home but the boat is still quite crowded with a fair smattering of camper vans and we are leaving the good weather behind for the rainy UK with a big black cloud hanging over the north of Liverpool but only a few showers on our way to Shrewsbury for our overnight at the Holiday Inn Express.
Remarkably no evidence of the flooding that is seriously affecting the nearby Wolverhampton area.
Watch most of the England v Wales football match in Euro 16 on the ferry but no sound unfortunately.
Leisurely breakfast and we head off to the local Kia garage and try to get to Aldi. Garage linked with Ford and whilst salesman at Kia was helpful and said a brochure would be sent, it hadn’t arrived by the end of the the following month. Ford salesman more helpful but after trying our suit case in a B Max came away with just brochures.
Long queue on road towards Aldi with cars turning round, so no point in going and head for a garden centre for lunch followed by a drive to Ludlow for a walk around the market.
Some wonderful buildings that have survived the test of time but sometimes difficult to get photos without cars and/or people in the way.
Dinner tonight at an Indian restaurant in Moreton-in-Marsh with Phillip & Sylvia.
There was a lot to catch up on with their family including Christopher and Claire’s new arrival after Claire’s exceptionally long labour.
Head to Holiday Inn Express, Apsley for a few nights and, as usual, there are very limited parking places.
On our travels over the last two days there have been considerably more “Leave” posters by the side of the road than “Remain” but the nearer we get to London, the more we see “Remain” posters. (Ironic really as I wrote this at the time but in publishing this some 2 months later after the “Leave” vote)
Despite National Rail’s website saying that Apsley station was manned today, it wasn’t – so we couldn’t renew our 60+ travel cards and had to make do with just day returns to London. 😠
Bus from Euston to Oxford Street and another to Piccadilly circus to get to The Apollo Theatre to see The go Between starring Michael Crawford.
A new musical which sadly may not last long as on arrival, we were re-allocated seats in the Stalls rather than the Dress Circle and even then the Stalls were not full.
The set itself was a bit dark with songs that were good but sadly not catchy enough to remember after the show.
The acting, however was wonderful, with Michael Crawford on stage the whole of the show as a young boy reenacted what Michael Crawford’s character had done as a youngster and the consequences that followed.
An intriguing story which needed a bit more concentration than many other musicals and a wonderful show nevertheless and very well acted.
Dinner in the Spaghetti House in Haymarket, where Sal had a surprise birthday meal some years ago. Table near the doorway allowed us to see some of the fast cars pass including a Gold Bentley. Sadly, I didn’t have even my phone camera ready.
A day with Nick & the boys in Cambridge, Ute was in Germany with her father, a lovely meal and met Peter’s girlfriend. Lots of discussion about the forthcoming EU Referendum, in which we don’t get a vote. Nick’s family is very left wing leaning and wants to stay in. Peter doesn’t get a vote as he is not yet 18.
Not so much trouble parking tonight, hotel not full.
A very wet morning for another trip to London, this time to take up the rest of the present the girls bought us for our birthdays (the first was Saturday’s show).
This time we take car to Stanmore and use our Oyster cards into London on the tube which is much cheaper than the London Midland train. Only about 5 spaces left in the car park and therefore a long walk to the tube in the rain.
Manage to continue journey after tube on top front seats of a No. 11 bus and after a stop for a coffee in the new area between Victoria Station & Westminster Cathedral, head for the Queen’s Gallery.
I had worked about 100 yds away from here in the 1970s for about 5 years but never been inside.
Not as big as I had thought but nevertheless full of wonderful pictures.
The exhibition at the time was Scottish artists and with the aid of a tablet we were given a fascinating insight into the artists themselves and the subjects.
Next up it was an exhibition of drawings of butterflies and whilst I wouldn’t have said I was a keen butterfly watcher, the drawings certainly captured them well with an accompanying story about Maria Merian who visited South America in the very early 1700’s and then painted many of the pictures.
Dinner tonight was the last of the present and was in a Marco Pierre White restaurant right at the end of the King’s Road Chelsea.
Again, a No.11 bus had it’s top front seat available and we alighted at Sloane Square for afternoon tea at John Lewis watching the world towards N London from their fifth floor window as by now the rain had gone and the afternoon/evening was a lovely summery one.
A leisurely walk down the King’s Road, something I probably have’ done in 40 years or so and a lovely meal watching the commuters return from their busy day.
Our meal was a three course meal with one side for the main course, other sides being extra.
Can’t remember what the overall cost would have been had we not had the meal as a birthday gift but it would have been expensive.
Again, top seats on a No.11 bus back to Westminster, change for the tube and back to Stanmore.
Nowhere to park again but hotel happy for me to park in disabled bay.
Meet up with Sarah & Harry At Sainsbury’s London Colney – they had been in the UK for a visit to Thomasland near Tamworth & a christening at Hereford Cathedral.
The Christening was supposed to be a church in Hereford but the party couldn’t find the key to the church so they held it in the Cathedral!
Sarah still remembered the Sainsbury’s from when my mum & dad had lived nearby so a meet up there for an hour or so was a good place to meet before she & Harry headed off to Gatwick and we headed off to Woodford to Pete & Lorraine’s.
Some well appointed alterations to Pete & Lorraine’s house have made it more spacious and lighter. Another fabulous meal and a great catch up – was it 40 years ago since we first met in Tunisia?
An early start and a drive to Clearwell to pick up a couple of things left there, see Rob and a very long and slow journey back up to Liverpool for the ferry home. What should have been a 3.5 hour journey from Clearwell turned into a 5 hour journey and we avoided more M6 problems by going via Chester.
Some time to rest and catch up at home before our next journey – to North Devon.
Now that’s a civilised time for travel: 10:45 BA flight to London City with some wonderful views across the Essex countryside as we seemed to take the long way round via the Essex coast North East of Southend.
London City airport has improved considerably since it was first opened with reasonably comfortable seats, nothing too over priced in the shops but still a popular and therefore busy airport.
Delay getting into Geneva due to a rain storm so train journey delayed and we don’t get into the hotel in Morges until half six. Meet up with Martin and others of his group in a nearby bar for some drinks before we head for the crowded local Italian restaurant where we are lucky to get a seat. Large quantity of food and not too overpriced at SFr 55 + tip and we head for bed in a very comfortable and quiet room in the Hotel de la Couronne.
Saturday 14 May
Breakfast in the hotel was SFr 28 each so we had opted for me going out to get a croissant thinking I would have to go some way.
Little did I know that there was a Saturday street market right outside the hotel and the first stall was a bakers.
That’s breakfast sorted and I am back in the room before 5 minutes is up.
We are meeting at Morges railway/bus station at 11am so it is a quick walk in the by now, more crowded market and we come across two of Martin’s friends that we were talking to last night so join them for coffee before our 10 minute stroll to the bus at the station. They didn’t have a meal last night!
Bus journey to St Prex, the next village, not sure what the locals thought of 20 or so Brits and Americans joining their local bus.
Short walk along the “promenade” with it’s perfectly manicured trees to the jetty for our boat journey. However, Martin has just received a call, the boat has strokes down! It was the first charter of the season and the engines failed to start.
It was the first charter of the season and the engines failed to start.
No boat trip so we adjourn to a nearby park for our picnic in by now what is becoming a more windy and wet day. There is shelter though under the trees.
The food was prepared by Nelly and Marlese as we later understand the caterer backed out.
Wine was flowing freely, much of it from Morges vineyards.
Our next adjournment was to a local vineyard operated by father & Son, M.Kind.
Goodness knows how many glasses of wine we consumed – all of it very palatable. Not sure what happened to the video we were going to see though.
Back to the hotel for a sleep before we meet again at Jameson’s – a locals bar – before setting off on a long haul up a hill ( Sal was not impressed! ) to an Indian restaurant attached to a theatre.
Not a bad meal bearing in mind the numbers they were catering for. Fortunately, the journey back to the hotel was downhill and, taken slowly did not cause too much difficulty.
Sunday 15 May
After going out to a nearby patisserie for croissants, no market today, we settle up and make our way to the station for our next adventure – to Montreux on the train.
Our journey from Morges is comfortable even in 2nd class and we exit into the town I have often wanted to visit but only before managed to pass through or change trains at.
We have indulged ourselves and opted for a few nights at the Fairmont in Montreaux, with lake views and a wonderfully comfortable bed.
The hotel is really only a short walk from the Station so no need to get a taxi; however, not surprisingly, our room is not yet ready – it’s not yet Midday so we leave our bags and walk on the lakeside through the Sunday market stalls along to the Freddie Mercury statue.
It is Freddie for a Day today and there are look a likes everywhere and music coming from inside the covered market hall.
Our room is ready and we have an upgrade which means our room has two windows and is about as big as our living room at home with a settee, desk, bed and the usual amenities.It even has BBC1 & BBC2 on the TV and absolutely splendid views across the lake to the, predominantly, French side.
Monday 16 May
A Bank Holiday – Whitsun – so lots of people still around, including families.
After a lovely breakfast with freshly cooked omelettes, we head off with our free Riviera passes on the 210 Trolley bus to Chillon Castle, about 2km outside of Montreux.
We get half price entry and, armed with a guide in English, head into and up the 40+ rooms some of which are still decorated and furnished as if we were still in the 16C when the castle was first established.
A wonderfully preserved castle with so many ancient artefacts to look at including painted ceilings, fabulous wooden artefacts, painted ceilings and a secret tunnel where, presumably, a woman’s lover could escape if required.
Some interactive displays for children but predominantly some very old artefacts with descriptions in both English and the local languages.
Chillon castle has a very strong connection with Lord Byron, the writer, and spent much time at the castle.
It would be easy to spend more time in the castle especially to read up on some of the fascinating exhibits and history of the castle.
Before the coach loads of tourists began arriving, we head back into Montreux and the Queen museum hidden away in the Casino.
Not well signposted, only knowledge of it’s whereabouts coming from a few brochures and the internet – there is virtually nothing at street level to show it’s existence.
Exhibits from the whole of the life of Queen including many outfits once worn by the late Freddie Mercury and a mixing room where you can adjust the sound for two pre-recorded samples.
A fascinating museum and well worth the hour or so spent inside.
Dinner again in the Jazz club and a walk in the dusk which still managed some interesting photo opportunities across the lake.
Tuesday 17 May
A better day weather wise and we head for St Gingolph on the ferry, just managing to catch the first one of the day.
2nd class discounted travel is absolutely adequate and the paddle steamer vessel, Vevey, similar to La Suisse which we saw yesterday, is brilliantly turned out with nicely varnished seating and wood window frames.
We sit outside until the wind gets to us as we head for the Swiss landing stage of St Gingolph via the eastern end of Lac Leman at Villeneuve.
St Gingolph has two villages, straddling the border between France and Switzerland down the River Morge.
Not a lot to see on the French side on the main road other than a small supermarket, to stock up on goodies, and the ubiquitous Patisserie but we do find a cafe on the waterfront for a couple of crepes for lunch but there is nothing really to entice the tourist back to the French side.
Two hours later and we are back on the Paddle steamer, Vevey, crossing the lake towards the Swiss city of that name.
More crowded now than before on the ferry but warmer with less wind.
Disembark and a short walk takes us through the main square, used as a car park, to the bus and rail interchange.
A trolley bus takes us through the Eastern side of Vevey to the terminus of the St Pelerin funicular railway, an unmanned railway to the village of the same that I used back in the mid 1990s when I attended a course at the Mt Pelerin Hotel (now Le Mirador Resort & Spa)
The route of the railway takes us up some very steep inclines, past numerous hamlets and small patches of land used, predominantly for grape growing.
The cafe at the terminus is closed for the day so our plans for a coffee and a look over the lake to France, where we had just come from, were thwarted.
Instead, we take the next car down admiring the view of Vevey, get on the waiting trolley bus at the bottom terminus which takes us back to the hotel.
I venture out to get a pre prepared salad for dinner, saving probably SFr 70 in the process and managing to photograph some of the artwork on the lake front.
A lovely sunset for out last night in Switzerland on this journey. We must return!!
Wednesday 18 May
A bit of confusion at checkout as we had been told breakfast was included, and we had been charged for it.
Without any quibble, the hotel removed the charges ( SFr 80 per day ) and we headed for the station for our comfortable train journey to Geneva Airport and our return to the Isle of Man via a three hour wait at London City.
Another holiday over and with guests arriving tomorrow we won’t have time to feel tired.